Teeth (2007) Flirting with Causality, And Anti-Castration Complex
Teeth, in the simplest terms, is a film about a vagina that eats penises. Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a post-pubescent teenage girl who was born with a gnawing problem. Her no-no parts are the living embodiment of the mythic Vagina Dentata. The myth was popularized by Freud and his musing about feminine mystery and human sexuality. In order to suppress her personal inclinations about her condition Dawn developed a religious a countering method of religious repression. She is a public speaker for the abstinence only program in her school. Dawn's biggest problem is not her dangerous genitalia but the boys and men in her life. The film depicts a cautionary tale rooted in an all too frequent feminine experience; rape and sexual harassment.
Teeth opens to the reoccurring motif of a nuclear power plant that haunts the horizon of a suburban community. Panning down camera introduces us to Dawn and her family. While her mother and step father are resting in lawn chairs young Dawn and Brad (step brother) are sitting in an inflatable pool. Brad desired to play Doctor with her and she appropriately chews a chunk off of Brads finger. The jumps forward to Dawn's as a teenager in high school, giving a speech to a crowd of mixed aged youths on the importance of abstinence when confronting their sexual yearnings. The film then follows Dawn as she develops a restrained romance with Tobey, and a subsequent set of encounters. The relationships between Dawn and Tobey progressed innocently enough until Tobey rapes Dawn and Dawn castrates him with her Teeth.
Traumatized by the complex interweaving of experiencing rape and the full capacity of her anatomy her world crumbles. The significance of her rationale behind her enthusiasm and involvement with the abstinence-only program becomes demystified. Dawn was not motivated by some divine inclination to spread the gospel of abstinence-only but, her own unconscious knowledge of the dangers of her own sexuality. There is an odd scene that takes place where after Dawn has lost her virginal status and is giving her last speech to youth about abstinence.
Dawn: Mr. Vincent asked me to talk about purity today.
Crowd Chants: Purity Yes!
Dawn: … And yesterday I could have done that... because yesterday I was pure...
Crowd: She shall be called women because she was take out of man
Dawn: Adam... right... I cant make sense out of it... is that it? … is it the Adam inside?
Crowd: Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh
Dawn: I don't know. I don't know. But there is something. There is something inside of me. That is is lethal.
Crowd: The serpent!
Dawn: I don't know. I don't know what it is
Crowd: The serpent!
(Mr. Vincent steps on stage and guides Dawn off stage.)
Mr. Vincent: I think what dawn is getting at is so important people. Exile from the garden. Tho it was not part of gods original plan. Thanks to Even and the devil... (scene ends)
Following the biblical logic, Dawn's flirting with Tobey acts and an influencing force mimicking Eve's influence over Adam. The influencing being the initial causal point that set into motion the set of events that leads up to Tobey forcing his will on Dawn. The misogynistic logic plays on this causal displacement which correlates each successive action to the original influence. The problem here is one that David Hume made clear in his argument about the Sun.
That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation, that it will rise. (David Hume)
Returning to the biblical logic we can see that between Dawn's flirtations, and Tobeys actions there chain of causality that the biblical interpretation fails to address. For instance, while Eve may have influence Adam, Adam had a choice to eat the apple or not eat the apple or for that matter eat some other fruit or go swimming. While Eve's influence may have arranged the situation which created the choice to eat the apple or not eat the apple Adam's has an existential freedom to make any number of responses to Eve's request. There is a sense in which human dynamic at play here has significantly more complex than the Sun's orbit. The sun and earth are caught in a pattern of probability, while Adam and Eve are both have agency, and are embarking on a choice that has no historical president.
The behavior between two persons plays out on two (or more) planes of causality. In a movie, the viewer takes on the god-like perspective and views the scene as a third part. I say, god-like because we are barred access to key elements of the characters subjective experience. We are not given access to the symbolic relativity of the actors on screen. We infer, base on our own internal scripts and emotional cues from the actors and other filmic components the ideological and emotional of the protagonist and antagonist's subjectivity, but that subjectivity is never fully realized in the viewer no matter how closely empathy seems to materialized.
How do we assert responsibility if access to causal signs is non-existent? In the feminist legalistic approach, consent is an ongoing process, and at times takes the form of a verbal or written agreement that can be annulled at any time by either party. The intention here is to disrupt the biblical causality that has infested the ideology of the executive and judicial systems, specifically police and courts. The problem, of course, is that the executive and judicial systems are in a position much like the viewer of a film. They inspect the narrative retrospectively, and rarely have access to corroborating evidence for either party. The courts are left to discern truth from narrative.
David Hume Quotes at BrainyQuote.com
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